Sometimes, the biggest challenge of the season isn’t finding a gift for the grumpy teenager in your life. Though it may be hard to wrap up something for the picky and petulant, it doesn’t compare to staying on budget. The real test of your patience is spending responsibly all month long. Unfortunately, with the temptation to create the jolliest of Christmases, it’s easy to go overboard. You might not even realize your mistake until it’s the New Year. Don’t wait until the harsh light of January illuminates your overspending. Keep your holiday bills at an all time low by following these simple tips about keeping a budget.

Retable your budget for the holidays

That’s right: retable. You should never steer your finances without a budget, regardless of the time of year, but the budget that works in mid-April won’t work in the heat of the holidays. The season of gift-giving puts added pressure on your finances, so you should accommodate these purchases accordingly.

The average Canadian is expected to spend roughly $1,507 on the season. While that’s still less than the 256GB model of the iPhone X, nearly $1.5k is a lot of money. True, this number covers many aspects of the holidays, including presents, travel, decorations, and food, but it’s collective cost is hard to pay if you don’t see it coming.

Be prepared to stick to it

Spending without a budget is like embarking on hiking trip through the bush without knowing what’s in your backpack. You need a financial plan to understand how much you can realistically spend on the holidays without putting the rest of your obligations (like rent) at risk. It can also help you track what you’ve already spent, so you always know how close you are to reaching these limits.

If you spend past these limits, then you set yourself up at a disadvantage for the New Year. If you’re dealing with holiday debt well into 2018, then you may not be able to pay for other winter expenses, like fixing a malfunction furnace or repairing a frozen pipe. If you’re worried a budget alone won’t hold you accountable, rely on lists whenever you shop for groceries or holiday items. A list can focus your spending, so you aren’t tempted to pick up items you don’t need.

Remember your other obligations

Readjust your budget well in advance of the holidays to accommodate your extra spending, but don’t forget about your regular expenses, like payments towards any payday loans, your mortgage, and insurance. It’s not always easy to table a budget that covers everything, and you will have to make concessions to meet your targets. Concessions like eliminating takeout is just one of the many ways your budget ensures you don’t sink further into debt during the holidays.

Apply these rules to the New Year

While these tips can help you through the expensive holidays, don’t forget about them once you arrive on the other side of 2018. Apply them to your budget throughout the year, and you’ll be in a better position to pay off your payday loans and credit cards in the New Year. Eventually, if you can stick with it consistently, you’ll even be able to set up enough savings that the next holidays aren’t as challenging. Then your only obstacle is finding that ultimate gift for your teen.

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